How To Keep Food Warm In Car: Principles & 7 Valuable Tips

Nowadays, we love to prep meals and bring them for trips. But after hours of driving, food often releases its heat and does not taste as good as it is supposed to be, unfortunately. 

That’s why you would wonder how to keep food warm in car while traveling. In today’s post, let’s discuss ways to reheat food with different types of costs and tools. 

Principle Of Keeping Food Warm While Transporting

Knowing the principle helps you understand the methods quicker and allows you to find more creative ways to deal with this. The guides here are to maximize input heat and minimize output heat. 

To maximize input heat: 

  • Make food extra hot before going.
  • Provide heat while transporting by heating factors, such as boiled water bottles and warm bricks. 
  • Warm them up before eating by a self-heating lunch box or a car food warmer.

To minimize output heat: 

  • Surround food by insulators.
  • Decrease blank space around food.

Things To Prepare Before Start

There are several ways to keep food warm while traveling and each of them calls for different tools. Let’s take a quick review to check if you already have tools for any method.

  • Aluminum foil; newspaper and towel; warm clothing; blanket
  • Thermos or thermal bag
  • Hot water bottle; brick; heat pack 
  • Cooler 
  • Car food warmer: microwave; self-heating lunch box; dedicated cooker. 

So, you now know what tools you need for transporting hot food. Next, it’s time to dig deeper into the methods, starting with budget-friendly and electric-free ways:

How To Keep Food Hot In Car Without Electricity?

How To Keep Food Warm In Car

1. Wrapping Food By Simple Insulators

The cheapest and most convenient way to maintain food’s temperature is to use available insulators at home. Follow these steps:

  • Put your meals in air-tight containers, or you can pass this step with solid foods. 
  • Cover the containers / solid foods with layers of aluminum foil or newspaper. 
  • Wrap them tightly with a towel, blanket, or any kind of warm clothes such as a wool coat or neckwear.


  • The more layers and insulators applied, the longer your foods stay warm. 
  • Aluminum foil is especially good at reflecting heat to foods, so consider using this material first. Then, in case it’s not available, use the newspaper instead. 

2. Put Food In Thermal Equipment

Thermal equipment, such as thermos or thermal bags, is an effective way to keep food warm for hours without electricity. 

The thermos is specifically helpful for carrying dense food for up to 6-8 hours without losing too much heat. It comes with double-walled stainless steel and a near-vacuum inside, which prevents energy from spreading.

As for the thermal bag, it is made to keep food warm conveniently and professionally. It works similarly to aluminum foil but is more effective and lightweight with layers of foil, plastic, and cardboard.

3. Increase Thermal Mass

After covering your meal with those insulators, it’s time to keep food hot in the car with heating factors. Prepare each or many materials below and place them adjacent to your food for extra energy. :

  • A bottle of boiled water
  • A heat pack 
  • A hot brick which is heated and wrapped in foil.

As for the heat pack, you can buy it on the market or make it yourself by filling a clean sock with rice and microwaving it for 3 minutes. 

In case of buying, we recommend the reusable one that you can reset anytime by putting it into hot water, instead of the one-time version activated by shaking. 

4. Use A Cooler For Hot Food

If you are carrying a big meal, the best way is to keep hot food in a cooler while traveling. A good cooler with the proper preparation can hold your food warm for up to 8 hours. So you can prepare the meal in the morning and enjoy your dinner with warm food. 

Step-by-step on how to keep food hot in a cooler:

  • Preheat the cooler with hot water. In this way, it won’t take energy from food to get the thermal balance inside. 
  • Add insulators, prefer the towels, to the bottom of the cooler to prevent the plastic walls from the extreme temperature of hot food.
  • Place hot food, ideally going with the insulators or thermal equipment in sessions 1 and 2, in the cooler. 
  • Add heating factors in session 3 for extra hot temperature and make sure there’s not much air space inside.
  • Place the lid. 

How To Keep Food Warm In Car With Electricity

We already discussed the best ways to keep food warm while traveling with little cost. Now, let’s turn to some electric-related methods which cost higher but definitely help in the long run. 

There are three types of car warmers: microwave, self-heating lunch box, and dedicated cooker, which uses some heating elements. 

1. Heat Food In The Car By a Microwave

No doubt that a microwave is one of the best ways to heat your meal efficiently and quickly. With a car microwave, we can thaw frozen food, reheat or cook food as well. 

Using a microwave to warm food up isn’t something new, but some microwaves may require more energy than what your car can afford when it comes to a car. So, be careful to choose the specific one that fits your vehicle.

Here is a detailed guide on how to run a Microwave in your vehicle using a 12V battery. Check it out!

2. Store Hot Food In An Electric Lunch Box

This is a way to keep food hot while traveling by using a self-heating lunch box to heat your meal in the car. It acts when plugging into a 12- to 24-volt car outlet and typically takes 20 – 50 minutes to warm the food.

There’re two types of heat boxes, one used in the office only and one has two plugs for both car and office outlet. 

Note that its space equals a meal for one adult, so it won’t help bring a significant amount of food. 

3. Using a Car Food Warmer And Cooker

A car food warmer and cooker may be slow to heat up, so it’s perfect for transporting hot food in a long drive.

If you are about to drive for hours, a slow cooker compatible with your vehicle’s electronic system will be the best way to reheat or cook food on the road. 

Why Should We Keep Food Warm On The Go?

In general, we have two reasons to keep food hot in the car:

For tasty: Hot food comes with better flavor when served warm, and eating hot food in a cold state is definitely boring and lowering the mood. 

For safety: The temperature of food is reported to have control of growing bacteria. According to the USDA, food outside 40ºF – 140ºF (5ºC – 60ºC) tends to stay safe while the within is considered entering the “Danger zone,” which can spoil food or make us sick. 


We’ve gone through almost all kinds of methods on how to keep food warm in a car. We hope you found the way that fits your circumstances the best. 

Besides, we believe that you may have your own creative way of dealing with the topic. If yes, don’t hesitate to share it with us in the comment session, and we’ll discuss more. Thanks for joining us!

Kevin Richard

Hi all! I’m Kevin. I spend plenty of time in the kitchen every day because I love cooking healthy and delicious foods for my family and friends. Cooking gives me a chance to be creative and fun. It’s also one of the most meaningful ways to express my love and take care of my little family.

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